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I Don't Know How She Does It Paperback – 1 May 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 150 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099428385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099428381
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

For some considerable time, Allison Pearson's journalism and television punditry have represented an oasis of wit and intelligence in an era of dumbing-down. Her speciality is the perfectly judged observation: the devastatingly spot-on anatomising of the foibles of human behaviour--always unsparing, but always full of good humour. It’s hardly surprising, then, that I Don't Know How She Does It: Kate Reddy is crammed full of those same qualities: this beguiling and sharply observed novel is based on her weekly Daily Telegraph column. The publishers tell us that this is "a comedy about failure, a tragedy about success", and that gets it about right; at the centre of this utterly readable tale is the beleaguered Kate Reddy.

Pearson's heroine spends her life dealing with nagging guilt and the impossible demands of an over-busy life. Yes, we're talking about the crushing demands put on modern women--and Kate is a classic case of just how difficult it is to "have it all". Career, relationships, marriage--as many women know, managing them all is a Herculean task. And as Kate's juggling act carries her closer and closer to disaster, Allison Pearson herself pulls off a particularly jaw-dropping juggling act herself: certainly, I Don't Know How She Does It is a delightful comedy of manners with a beautifully observed heroine (with whom it's very easy to identify), but there are some razor-sharp points made under the surface here about women in the new century. But this is never at the expense of an unputdownable read--Pearson is much too canny a writer to forget the fact that we want to be entertained first and foremost, whatever else an author may freight in to their narrative. No wonder all those Hollywood film studios are already putting up millions for the screen rights. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"I love Kate Reddy...her tale made me cry twice and laugh often" (Independent on Sunday)

"If you could buy stock in a book, I would stake all my savings on the success of I Don't Know How She Does It. Here at last is the definitive social comedy of working motherhood" (Washington Post)

"Refreshingly engaging" (Vogue)

"Funny, fast and full of nail-on-the-head observations" (Daily Telegraph)

"A book that made me howl with laughter" (The Times)

"Searing comedy" (New Statesman)

"Painfully funny" (Heat)

"Pearson...never hides her intelligence or apologises for her seriousness of purpose" (The Times)

"A funny, heartbreaking mirror of the daily lives of mothers" (Telegraph Magazine)

"Pearson writes with gratifying elegance and endearing self-mockery" (New York Times)

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By A Customer on 12 July 2002
Format: Hardcover
Allison Pearson can, as we already know, write. Her forte is wonderful observations, pithily put. The resonance of what she writes about (I have two children; my wife and I both work) made me laugh and cry several times.
You should read the book if the above sounds good to you. If you want to read a story, however, be warned. The story doesn't start until page 288. Before that, you'll be embroiled in the hectic life of Kate Reddy, forever wondering if the plot possibilities she tees up will ever come to pass. Once you get to page 288, when Kate Reddy is confronted by events that require her to start making choices, you'll find major events dealt with very sketchily or barely mentioned in passing; the author skims over the few elements of real story that exist in the book. At times, it seems the author 'chokes' when faced with exploring how her heroine might develop when not merely coping with working motherhood.
I like a good storyline in novels. Maybe Ms Pearson was just too busy to put one in.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fun, read-in-three-days kind of novel, but pretty much forgettable. The major problem I had with this book was that I loathed Kate - partly for her snobbishness, but mainly for her stupidity. I mean, how can she really think that she can have it all? I had no sympathy for her at all and I really wanted Richard not to come back to her. She says that her family are the most important thing to her and that her family are suffering because she is nearly always at work, but it takes three quarters of the book for her to do something about it.
I also thought that Allison Pearson was trying to have it both ways, in that she perhaps was trying to paint an accurate picture of working women's lives in modern society, but the fact that Kate is such an incredibly high earner - not being representative of most working mothers after all - really undermines her argument.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a perfectly judged piece of marketing - it's like Bridget Jones for the older woman, and it has exactly the same virtues and exactly the same faults. The virtues first - it's laugh-out-loud funny, readable, and not very taxing. The flaws; it's soooo light that it might blow away if you took it to the beach (as is no doubt intended). It does have moments of real poignancy, but they don't strike very deep. And the ending is so contrived it leaves Mills and Boon looking natural.
Two things really got to me, though, and made it hard for me to accept this book for what it is. First, the children - ostensibly the focus of the heroine's thoughts - are so poorly characterised that they might be anyone's. I know it's idiotic to compare this to Tolstoy, but Anna Karenin does show that it's possible to write about a mother's dilemma without erasing the child altogether.
The second thing is the heroine's extreme wealth. Of course some working mothers do have jobs in the city, but it's pitifully unrepresentative of working mothers as a whole, most of whom cannot afford Paula and Juanita (the nanny and the cleaner). And even though Kate doesn't get her bonus, she never seems overdrawn, or over the limit on her credit cards. She never worries about money, dialling up limos like there's no tomorrow. This extreme solvency seems to me a sign that this book is actually fantasy, not reality. If you are looking for a romance of Working Motherhood, this is for you. If it's truth-telling you want, try Helen Simpson's Hey Yeah Right Get A Life.
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By A Customer on 5 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback
Maybe I have unrealistic expectations of novels but I'm sure by anyone's standards this book can be described at best as lacklustre. Kate was an interesting mix of highflyer and human doormat. The novel didn't make me "howl with laughter". I think it was twice that the protagonists daughter induced a mild chuckle, not exactly the stuff that makes you fall off your seat in hysterics. The adulterous love interest was lame, and the ending was extremely unsatisfying. I can't put my finger on what exactly was wrong with the book but I wasn't particularly moved by Kate's plight and didn't feel that the end was strong enough to make any impact.
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Format: Paperback
Tedious tale about a high flying career woman dissatisfied with every aspect of her life - moans that she can't work less hours despite having a nanny AND cleaner and taking taxis everywhere despite having a car. Hideous spoiled children, and a nanny who pulls all the strings, even though Kate is supposed to be assertive in her banking career. Felt like throwing the book across the room when she said she felt like her telling her nosy neighbour that "was going to send her child to state school to see her explode", or something along those lines, as if this was a form of child abuse. No place for this book in the world of a working class reader, made even more infuriating in the middle of the recession. Repulsive. Will give the film a miss also, as everything SJP has done outside of SATC has left a lot to be desired and this falls in to that categoty.
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Format: Paperback
This starts out witty and smart, the sort of book you might expect from Pearson's knowing comments on Newsnight Review over the years. The prose style is a touch more accomplished than the average book of this genre; the similes come thick and fast, and they're generally right on the money. Pearson clearly knows her territory, whether by real life or research, and the trials and tribulations of her thirtysomething protagonist - a fund manager and mother of two - are entertaining and informative in equal measure.

And then alarm bells suddenly start ringing. Her name, for one thing - Kate Reddy... Reddy, geddit? - is a little too pun-perfect for comfort and the emails that `K8' sends her two best friends (one of which is called Candy Stratton - had Pearson been listening to `Young Hearts Run Free' before she wrote this?) are just plain annoying. Imagine Bridget Jones fed through a text-speak blender and out comes silly nonsense like `mens2ruashn si2ashn'. Before you know it, she's got a hate-hate relationship that quickly turns to love with an annoying American client who - hello, turns out to be rather gorgeous, not to mention blessed with the Dickensian name of Jack Abelhammer (the source of a few lame jokes). In one fell swoop this moves from proper literature to beach read. I should have known better. The book was released in two different candy-coloured covers and there's even a quote from India Knight on the back, but Pearson just always seemed so... intellectual. It's a let-down.

Anyway, once she's jumped on the lightweight bandwagon, there's no stopping her.
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